Clintondale is one of those obscure Ulster County hamlets that you might have heard of, but probably have no idea where it is. Tucked among New Paltz, Plattekill and Highland, Clintondale – which doesn’t really belong to one town per se – is one of those bucolic, in-between places that contribute so much to Ulster County’s picturesque beauty. The Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) is holding a house tour on Saturday, June 2 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. that will acquaint people with the area’s charming rural architecture, as well as provide a glimpse into its history.
“Mysteries of Clintondale: Curious Corners and Vanished Pathways in the Heart of Apple Country,” offered in conjunction with the Plattekill Historical Society, is a self-guided tour to a number of 18th- and 19th-century stone or wood houses, churches, barns and other buildings that casts light on the Huguenot and Quaker origins of the area’s settlement, as well as the development of its noteworthy fruit-growing industry and former appeal as a resort.
Because Clintondale hasn’t changed that much, the tour not only explores some of Clintondale’s most interesting and historic buildings but also their relationship to the surrounding land. WVLT member Johanna Hecht Sokolov noted that the wetlands, or “grait wild meddow,” that isolated the 18th-century Huguenot farmers from the more populous settlement of New Paltz to the west (they attempted to drain the area, which is the source of the Swartekill and Black Creeks) in recent times has served as a kind of blessing, by limiting development and preserving the area’s character.
Because the slopes rising from the meadow are stony, farmers early on resorted to growing fruit, initially supplying berries and grapes to New York City and later switching to apples and pears. A key aspect to the farmers’ success in growing and shipping out apples was the country’s first successful application of “controlled-atmosphere” storage on the Melford G. Hurd farm, which is a stop on the tour. Visitors can also tour the farm’s 1790 homestead, which contains an exhibit documenting Clintondale’s agricultural history.
The tour also visits stone houses built by the Huguenots, who migrated to the area from New Paltz, as well as early-19th-century buildings constructed by the Quakers, who traveled up to Clintondale from Long Island and Marlboro. They include the 1811 Meetinghouse, which now serves as a public library and adjoins an 1889 church.
Yet another stop on the tour is at the “Elixir Spring House,” a stone building expanded during the Victorian era to become a popular resort. The tourists arrived via the New Haven Railroad, which was extended into Ulster County via the Hudson River trestle that is today’s Walkway over the Hudson; the tour will point out the site of the former Clintondale Station. The traces of a path that according to tradition was originally blazed by the native Lenape will also be visited, as well as the site of the now vanished “Spite House,” location of a Prohibition-era confrontation between the area’s Quaker teetotalers and the more tolerant, alcohol-imbibing citizens from the Town of Lloyd. (According to Sokolov, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union had a strong following in Clintondale, thanks to the Quaker presence.) Also on the tour are the handsomely refurbished 1776 Jacob Freer house and the stone house that belonged to Solomon Elting, which overlooks the Black Creek.
Tickets for the Clintondale house tour cost $25 in advance (obtained from the Land Trust’s website – see below) or $30 on the day of the event; the price includes a reception following the tour. Pick up your tickets, a brochure and a map at the Gunk Haus restaurant, located at 387 South Street, on the day of the tour between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. All proceeds benefit the WVLT’s land preservation efforts, which include both purchases and conservation easements; one noteworthy project of the WVLT was the transformation of an abandoned railroad into the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, popular with hikers and bicyclists. For more information call (845) 255-2761 or visit www.wallkillvalleylt.org.